Welcome back to Galatians! We are picking up at chapter 5. Last week Paul wrapped up chapter 4 with an analogy using Hagar and Sarah, the wives of Abraham. Paul continues here by expressing the freedom that comes through Christ through the promise made to Abraham and to Isaac. Let’s dive in as we prepare to finish up Galatians.
1 Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.
Freedom comes through Christ. Having been set free by Jesus we must not put ourselves back into slavery under a system of works-based salvation. If you try to make yourself righteous by works then Jesus is not benefiting you because you are again under slavery. Paul points out that if you try to follow one part of the law you will have to follow all of the law. By trying to earn our own salvation we become separated from God and have despised and rejected grace. We are to wait for righteousness that comes through the Holy Spirit, the only hope for us to be righteous. A point like circumcision on its own accomplishes nothing, but acting in faith and out of love is what accomplishes God’s will. It is interesting the way he says it, faith working through love. Faith is trust placed in God. We place trust in God because we love Him and because He is faithful, and He is faithful because He loves. The two seem to be inseparable.
7 You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from the One who called you. 9 A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in the Lord you will not accept any other view. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11 Now brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!
Paul has made his point about freedom and the ineffectiveness of the law and now turns to the Galatians themselves. He asks a question that has been burning within him, why? Who had stopped them from obeying the truth. This requirement to follow the law did not come to the gentiles from God, but from false teachers. Their teaching is destructive and spreads like a virus, or as Paul says like yeast in bread. However, even with all that has happened Paul expresses confident that they will agree with what he is saying. He also expresses that those that are teaching this false command will be punished for what they are doing. Paul then tries to get them to see the truth. If circumcision is part of Christianity, then why is Paul being persecuted? If circumcision is still required, then the cross is worthless because works are bringing salvation. The false teachers have so infuriated Paul that out of a righteous indignation and a bit of witty sarcasm he says he wishes they would go a step further and cut their privates off.
13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another. 16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now Paul seems to know that someone will read his words and think they can do all kinds of sins since they are saved by grace. He is quick to tell them not to use this freedom to do the desires of the flesh, but to instead serve each other through love. In fact, the point and purpose of the law can be put into two major points, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says this in Matthew 22:34-40 when he is asked what is the greatest command. On the other side, if we instead fight against each other we will bring destruction on ourselves. We are to walk in the Spirit and in love, opposed to the flesh. The flesh will always look to do the opposite of the Spirit. Those who stay in the Spirit and allow Him to lead them are not slaves of the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, what are the works of the flesh? Sexual immorality. Well what’s that? Many things actually, so I will try to keep it brief. Sexual immortality can be broken into 2 categories, sexual acts outside of marriage and sexual acts with someone other than your spouse. The first is easiest to deal with. Literally all sexual acts (not talking hugging and kissing as long as your clothed) are prohibited before marriage. Now you can quibble over where to draw the line, but you should refer to Jesus’ words that anyone who lusts after someone has already sinned sexually. If you can do it without sexual feeling, appeal, or thrill then it is likely fine, but if it makes you lust you should not do it. As for the other there needs to be a basis. This applies to a man and a woman who are married. Before you ask God does not condone homosexual marriage anywhere in the Bible and it is not part of His design. Paul himself lists homosexuality as a sin in many of his other letters. That being said it is not some greater sin, it is a sin like all else and as Romans tells us we all have sinned. However, if you claim to be a believer then you need to have turned from that sin to do the things the Spirit leads us to do and that the Bible commands us to do. If you want a more in-depth argument there are many books and commentaries to read on the subject, but as for me I will end the argument here with God’s words and I do not intend to do more. Moving on, the other type of sexual sin is done in marriage when one spouse goes to someone outside of their marriage and has sexual relations of any kind with them. Promiscuity really hits both types and continues the ide, this is just more specific as it means the actual act of sex. It is what it is and there is nothing to add to it.
The next point is moral impurity. This is more vague, but touches on justice. It is the idea of compromising on the standards given in the Bible and doing what we know is wrong. It really encompasses all sins, but comments more on the loss of morals than the acts committed. The next ones can be paired down into groups. Hatred, selfish ambition, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, dissensions, factions, and envy all share the idea of anger and hate. Jesus talked about how hating someone was the same as murder. We are called to love and care for all people, regardless of whether they are Christians or not. On the same note we are called not to serve our own interests but to serve others.
Idolatry and sorcery both hold the idea of worshipping a different god and trying to call on them for power. The Bible points out that these ‘powers’ of sorcery actually come from demons. Now idolatry has more meanings. In fact, God often used it as a charge against Israel who would wander after other gods, but he also used it in conjunction with adultery. It is the idea of chasing after something other than God and giving it more importance. Idolatry is not just chasing false gods, it is putting something before God. For some people that becomes money, power, or even sexuality.
The last section consists of drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. Drunkenness should be obvious, referring to anyone who gets drunk. A sin that goes hand in hand with that is carousing. This is the idea of partying in a way where you indulge in various other sins such as sexual sins. Likewise, anything like this is of the flesh as well. There is not much more to say on this list. These are sins and do not please God. You either believe God’s word or you do not. If you do then you must stop doing these things.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Now in direct opposition to the works of the flesh we have the works of the Spirit. We are called to love, to be patience, to be full of joy (remembering what God has done for us), to be patient, to be kind, to be good, to be faithful (believing and trusting in God), to be gentle, and to exercise self-control. These are all things God approves of and there is no law against them. If we belong to Jesus, then the flesh and the works it produces are dead. In that case, we live by the Spirit. If we live in the Spirit, then we must follow the Spirit. We must not be conceited or provoke each other, but continue in love.
So What Do I Do With This Now?
All the information is great, but what do I do with it now?
1 Remember you are saved by faith and not works, however also remember that if the Holy Spirit is in you then you must not continue in sin.
2 Do not let false teachers lead you from the truths of scripture. You should check what they say against the Bible and be careful not to follow blindly. They may have good intentions, but if they are wrong it is still wrong.
3 We have freedom in Christ, but we are not to use this freedom to serve ourselves. We are called to serve others.
4 Do not do the works of the flesh, such as sexual sins, practice witch craft, put something before God, hatred or anger, drunkenness, or anything like them.
5 Do the good works God has prepared for you and remember that we are to be dead to the flesh and the sins it desires.
Well all, that was long. There is a lot of material here, and important commands. There are things we enjoy that are in fact sinful. We must repent and turn from these asking God for strength to overcome. Please press on and if you have been convicted of sin in your life please do not wait. Repent today and seek God.